Red Planet Mars (1952)

Peter Graves plays a scientist in San Diego, California who receives messages from Mars on his radio transmitter (sneakily intercepted by the Russians); initially, the decoded Martian messages about prolonged life and their unnecessary need for industrial mechanics throw America’s population into a tailspin. However, it turns out Mars is a Christian planet, and their next communication with us, a regular “sermon on the mount”, begins to ease tensions and starts a religious revival worldwide. Talky think-piece, adapted from a play, amusingly full of clean-cut, incredibly polite Americans and savage-acting Russkies. Not likely to please science-fiction fans who are used to propulsive action, though the b&w cinematography by Joseph Biroc is excellent and there are some interesting ideas and a last-act plot-twist. Released at a time when communist hysteria was running rampant in the U.S., the movie is brave enough to attempt a humanitarian tact–and naive enough to believe in what it preaches. A livelier cast might have made it more memorable, but check out Peter’s big-screen TV!